By Brent Johnson
For the Redoubt Reporter
Spring is in the air, and so is graduation. As we recognize the class of 2013, it might be refreshing to step back and look at the top students of former classes. I’ll begin with Ninilchik School and try to add other schools if readers indicate an interest.
1961 David F. Botens Unknown
1962 Martha Blossom Verda Bice
1963 Daniel Cecil Unknown
1964 Nancy Tiemann Chuck Hawkins
1965 Nancy Banta Unknown
1966 Robert Haakenson Dave Palmer
1967 Wayne Leman Mary Sonnichsen
1968 Loren Leman Kathy Palmer
1969 Mary Haakenson Colleen McGann
1970 Kathleen Blossom Carolyn Bishop
1971 Sandy Palmer Eric Hylen
1972 Jody Jackson Debra Oskolkoff
1974 Jamie Towe Shirley Wilson
1975 Bruce Kistler Amy Dimmick
1976 Audrey Benson Pam Skjold
1977 Bill Wade Sally Tiemann
1978 Karen Benson Koreena Hostetter
1979 Shelly Hansen Mark Skjold
1980 Zetta Ostrander Delores Anderson
1981 Lori Romphe Eric Skjold
1982 Donnava Ostrander Sonja Miller
1983 Richie Bartolowits Norbert Miller
1984 Waynel Ostrander and Erica Miller David O’Dell
1985 Ronna Lindeman Dawn O’Dell
1986 David Bear Tina Santos
1987 Kristi A. Lindeman David Rabbage
1988 Tammy Steik Steven Cook
1989 Kelli Jo Lindeman Brandy Macy
1991 Brenda Rosga Jess McKeller
1992 Kerri Roe Brian Covey
1993 Tristan Miller Kyle Rice
1994 Janel Rosga Thomas Bell
1995 Ivan Encelewski Angela Lindeman
1996 Mandi Bock Theresa Thomas
1997 Jacob Ortman Andy Matthews
1998 Michelle Chihuly Katie Schaetzle
1999 Dean Schwin Finely Bock
2000 Theresa Chihuly Corina Sullivan
2001 Gretchen Garroutte Bridgette Cuffe
2002 Katie Schollenberg Janelle Moerlein
2003 Whitney Leman Kasey Panhuise
2004 Katie Moerlein Jason Schollenberg
2005 Patrick Tilbury Katerina Hall
2006 Brenden Cuffe Lauren Wolford
2007 Kjersten Skjold Krista Leman
2008 Heidi Skjold Ashley Bartolowits
2009 Grace Ehlers Cody Presley
2011 Cayla Rogers Michelle Bartolowits
2012 Stephanie Blank Destini Riley
2013 Kaylee Anne Smith David Ryan Bear
In some cases the best of the mortarboards run in families. John and Delores Lindeman produced three valedictorians, Ronna, Kristi and Kelly, and a salutatorian, Angela. Frank and Roswitha Miller had two valedictorians, Erica and Tristan, as well as two salutatorians, Sonja and Norbert. Sonja is one of the more interesting girls to grace this list. For many years she has been a member of a convent, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Wichita, Kan.
The Skjold name reaches our register with a high five. Pam, Mark and Erik were salutatorians, but here is where details get complicated. Their mother, Marilyn, had a blended family with Wayne Ostrander. Wayne’s daughters Zeta, Donnava and Waynel, each were valedictorians. As time spun Erik Skjold married Joy Borgman, and one generation later their daughters, Kjersten and Heidi, became valedictorians. Thus, the Skjold-Ostrander family etched eight names on this list.
The Leman name appears four times. Nick and Marian Leman’s sons, Wayne and Loren, were both valedictorians. Loren may be the most famous valedictorian from any peninsula school, having been Alaska’s lieutenant governor.
Nick’s brother, Harry, has a son, Dan (the famous girls basketball coach), who married valedictorian Jamie Towe. Dan and Jamie’s daughters both made our list, Whitney as valedictorian and Krista as salutatorian. Jamie’s half sister, Tammy Steik (their mother was Edna Steik), was a valedictorian. Tammy married valedictorian David Michael Bear and their son, David Ryan Bear, is the 2013 salutatorian.
Salutatorian Shirley Wilson married Butch Schollenberg, and they have valedictorian Katie and salutatorian Jason. In 2009, Jason Schollenberg married Whitney Leman, to become the second pair from our list to wed.
Edna Steik relates to each of these pairs, as Tammy’s mother and Whitney’s grandmother.
Sen. Bob and Sue Palmer thrice put their name on the list. Their Dave and Kathy were salutatorians and their Sandy was valedictorian. Floyd and Marion Blossom had Martha and Kathleen, who were valedictorians.
Ernie and Laura Lee Tiemann had Nancy, who was a valedictorian, and Sally, a salutatorian. Elmer and Barbara Banta had Nancy, who was a valedictorian, and Betty Jean, a salutatorian. Lionel and Esther Haakenson had Robert and Mary, both valedictorians. Bud and Pauline Benson had Audrey and Karen, who were valedictorians.
David and Delores O’Dell have David and Dawn, who were salutatorians. Dan and Sandy Rosga have valedictorians Brenda and Janel (whose mother is Dorthy). Mike and Shirley Chihuly have Michelle and Theresa, both valedictorians. Michelle played college hockey on a girls team.
The Bock name appears twice, with cousins — valedictorian Mandi Bock is Roger and Shareen Bock’s daughter, and salutatorian Finely Bock is Craig and Helena Bock’s son. A third Bock cousin, Patrick Tilbury, is a valedictorian, son of Steve and Patty Tilbury.
Tim and Kristine Moerlein had salutatorian, Janelle, and valedictorian, Katie. Emil and Fran Bartolowits had valedictorian Richie. Another of the sons, Paul Bartolowits, and his wife, LaRae, have their Ashley and Michelle. Bob and Diane Covey’s son, Brian, was a salutatorian; and Bob’s nephew, Tracy, and his wife, Sheila, have a valedictorian son, Dillon.
Being familiar with many of these families, I notice a common denominator — church. For instance, the Lindeman, Miller, Chihuly, Rosga and Bartolowits families are Catholics, the Skjold-Ostranders and O’Dells came out of a Quaker background and lived, while their children were in high school, in a Christian commune. The Haakensons were faithful members of the Anchor Point Church of Christ, Marian Leman was a missionary and her family attended the Baptist Church, and the Blossoms, Bantas and Palmers went to the Methodist Church.
Is there a reason why churchgoing families might excel at education? I’ll let readers answer that.
Girl gender seems to be another advantage. Ladies made the list 70 times and boys but 34 times.
Achieving academic honor is, of course, no guarantee for a successful life. Some of the people on this list have had struggles, and one is sadly dead after a party that went awry. But topping the mortarboard class is a lasting honor that, for many, was a step forward in a meaningful life.
Brent Johnson, of Clam Gulch, is a former president of the Kenai Peninsula Historical Association.